Thursday, July 20, 2006

Flat tire

Yesterday I got my first flat tire since I started commuting by bicycle. I was more than half-way to work in the morning when my rear tire picked up two-inch self-starting bolt. I heard a metal on metal sound and then hissing.

I pulled over onto the nice, wide sidewalk, complete with a low wall convenient for propping up the bike and sitting on. I removed the tire from the bike and then, reading the instructions on the spare tube package, removed the tire using tire levers and tube from the rim.

I was able to put the new tube in and snap the tire back onto the rim. But then my micro pump let me down. I could not get nearly enough air into the tube. So I put the tire back onto the bike and started walking it while also carrying my pannier.

A few blocks away, I found a working pay phone outside a liquor store and called a taxi. I didn't want to risk my rim and tire, plus taking more time, to walk quite a few more blocks to a gas station with an air compressor.

The taxi driver put my bike in the trunk and took me to work. By the time I arrived, including showering, I was only 45 minutes late and was at my desk at the time most people get to work anyway.

At lunch, I took the tire off the bike again and got a ride to a nearby gas station to pump it up. Then I had to get the tire back on the bike, in my work clothes. Now the inflated tire didn't fit between the two rear brake pads, so, not knowing (or having forgotten) the handy way to uncouple the brakes, I unscrewed one of the pads, fit the tire back on the hub with the help of one of the facilities men who happened to be nearby, and put the brake pad back on.

I rode pretty carefully going home later that afternoon (my tire was low and I wasn't 100% confident I had put everything back just right). I stopped by my bike store to buy another spare tub and a larger pump. The sales guy checked that I had put the tire on properly, tightened up the brake pad, and showed me how to uncouple the brakes to fit the tire on.

So my first experience with changing a flat by myself wasn't too traumatic. It wasn't raining or dark or too hot. I also tested the spare parts and tools I carry with me. Besides needing a larger pump, I learned I should carry latex gloves. My fingernails are still engrimed with grease from working with the chain.

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